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Document Details :

Title: Climate Change, Neutrality and the Harm Principle
Author(s): FRAGNIÈRE, Augustin
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 21    Issue: 1   Date: 2014   
Pages: 79-99
DOI: 10.2143/EP.21.1.3017287

Abstract :
This article aims at evaluating the compatibility of coercive climate policies with liberal neutrality. More precisely, it focuses on the doctrine of state neutrality as associated with the ‘harm principle’. It argues that given the difficulty of attributing causal responsibilities for climate harms to individuals, the harm principle does not work in this case, at least if one endorses a liberal atomistic ontology. Furthermore, the definition of what constitutes climate harms implies making moral assumptions, which makes it impossible to justify climate policies in a neutral way. Finally, the article demonstrates another consequence of applying neutrality to the case of climate change, namely the risk of a shift from political forms of decision-making to technocracy. Focusing too much on liberty of choice may (paradoxically) be to the detriment of political freedom. The article concludes that climate change is an intrinsically moral issue and that it should be the occasion of a political debate about our current values and lifestyles. It should not be reduced to a mere question of carbon metric.

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